By Sean Conway
Got the winter blahs? A flashy pink hibiscus can turn any sunny window or sunroom into a tropical paradise
Winter still holds much of the nation in its strong grip, complete with blasts of arctic air, great dumps of snow and grey skies showing no signs of letting up. Let's face it: spring is a long way off for most of us.
I find that one of the best antidotes to the winter blahs is to make a tropical escape. Not literally, mind you, but with the help of mail-ordered tropical plants. They're the perfect way to enjoy a touch of the tropics without leaving home.
One of my favorite sources for tropical houseplants is Logee's Greenhouse, in the somewhat surprising location of Danielson, Conn. In business since 1892, Logee's is a family-run operation run by tropical plant experts Byron and Laurelynn Martin. Their book "Growing Tasty Tropical Plants ... In Any Home, Anywhere" provides all the information any gardener needs to successfully grow a wide range of edible tropical container plants from citrus to coffee, tea and vanilla.
Logee's mail order catalog is filled with tantalizing tropical houseplants, and browsing through it helps make the long cold winter a little more palatable. Granted, a week or two in the tropics might have a little more impact on one's psyche, but a box full of exotic plants arriving on the doorstep is a good substitute for any avid gardener.
For those who are forced by the weather to spend more time indoors than out during the winter months, a potted gardenia or fragrant jasmine on the windowsill is enough to keep the nose from becoming despondent. Enough varieties of these plants are available to make your home rival a French perfume laboratory.
Tropical plants, as Byron Martin points out, are often well suited for home culture. Some of Logee's offerings are foliage plants that do well in low light conditions; they can grow near a window rather than in a window. Tree ferns, begonias and anthuriums are perfectly happy growing in north facing windows, which receive no direct sun.
As a rule of thumb, however, most flowering tropical plants such as hibiscus will require at least a few hours of direct sunlight in order to bloom well inside. Hibiscus is the quintessential blooming plant that can turn any sunny window or sunroom into a tropical paradise.
If you have only seen pink or red blooming hibiscus then you owe it to yourself to check out varieties like 'Creole Lady,' 'Tsunami,' 'Rumrunner' or 'Cajun Blue.' These are not your Grandfather's hibiscus, that's for sure. These hybrids have colors ranging from pale blue to salmon pink, deep orange, purple and peach. Some of the flowers are fully double while others have wavy or ruffled edges.
If the cold winter weather has you longing for a taste of the tropics why not sit down with a mail order catalog and have a few tropical houseplants shipped right to your door. Once they arrive you can kick back and fix yourself one of those little umbrella drinks!
Sean Conway's book is "Sean Conway's Cultivating Life: 125 Projects for Backyard Living" (Artisan Books, 2009), describes 125 projects for backyard living.
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Copyright ©, Cultivating Life by Sean Conway